How to Tile a Bathroom Floor: A Beginner’s Step by Step Guide to Installing Cement Floor Tiles

back and white handmade Moroccan Cement tiles being installed on a bathroom floor

How to Tile a Bathroom Floor Using Moroccan Cement Tiles

I have been looking forward to tiling this bathroom since the day I first saw these gorgeous cement Moroccan tile! 

This is the third tile floor I’ve done, so by now, I’m feeling pretty good about my skills, which is important, especially with this pattern. Any slight error sticks out like a sore thumb.

There are plenty of tutorials on how to tile a bathroom floor out there, but I’m giving you tips that will get you excited about this DIY project and also give you the confidence to tackle tiling.

Just a friendly reminder: This tutorial and any opinions or recommendations are genuinely mine, but this is not a substitute for consulting a professional. I also use affiliate links to earn a commission.

Prepare the Floor

clean floor prepared for tile installation

Obviously, you need a clean slate to work with. But what is really important in the step is to make sure any nails or floor screws are not sticking out. Even a slight bit makes a big difference in getting your floor tile level.

Using a hammer, I pounded all the nails down as far as I could. Ear protection helps because this is loud, and watch out for your fingers!

Plan the Layout

tile dry run
tile dry run
tile dry run
dry run including the shower floor

Before gluing anything down, I did a dry run, which meant I laid out the tile as if I were installing it. I first made sure I had enough tiles, and then I looked to see if there was anything I could do with the layout to minimize the number of awkward cuts. Luckily, this bathroom is tiny and square (as square as a 75-year-old house can be). 

I started my pattern at the center, and since my eye was most drawn to in front of the shower threshold, I started there and worked backward out of the room.

To find the center of the room I simply measured from side to side and used a level to draw a line down the entire floor. This line is another guide to ensure things are staying straight as I work.

Apply Adhesive

I prefer pre-mixed mortar (aka Thinset) because it’s one less thing to do and clean up. I took my trowel and plopped several globs of adhesive onto the floor. 

Then, using the notched side of the trowel, I spread these globs into a smoother layer over a small section of the floor. 

Thinset dries quickly, and especially in the beginning, when I was just getting into my tiling groove, I spread only enough for a few tiles at a time.

Lay the Tiles

tiling a bathroom floor

Taking my first tile, using the notched end of my trowel, I first apply a layer of adhesive to the back of the tile. This process is called “back buttering.” If you’ve heard that term, now you know what it is all about!

Then, I pressed this buttered tile firmly into the adhesive. I wiggled it a bit to ensure it gripped and then meticulously checked for level and square. Wipe away any mortar that is on the tile now before it dries!

These first few tiles will set the stage for the rest of your tiles, so my best advice is to take your time and make sure they’re just right.

tile on a bathroom floor with Thinset mortar

I started using a level to check that everything lay evenly and flat. But the more tiles I got on the floor, I then gave up on the level and used my eye and the pattern as my guide.

The key to a flawless tiled floor design is:

  • Inspecting your pattern (that the pattern is consistent and you didn’t, by mistake, turn a tile in the wrong direction)
  • Check your spacing. Yes, spacers are your friend, but step back and make sure the pattern and lines between your designs all look straight from afar. 
  • Looking for level. The most important part of my floor pattern was in the corner where the larger flower design originated. If one of these was higher than the other, it was quite obvious. I used my eyes and hands to feel the tiled edges were as level as possible. 

I learned that making one adjustment, such as leveling the top left corner, would throw off all the other corners and mess up the spacing. Just keep checking! 

tiling a bathroom floor using Moroccan cement tiles
tiling a bathroom floor using Moroccan cement tiles
tiling a bathroom floor
bathroom floor with cement tiles after installing and grouting

You’ll also want to go back and check these things again after laying the next tile because it can shift other surrounding tiles. That is, until the Thinset has dried enough, it won’t wiggle.

I had to lift some tiles after lying and add more adhesive to make them level. Have you ever tried lifting a tile off of this stuff?? It’s amazing how sticky it is! I used my tile remover (a putty knife, flat-head screwdriver, or anything else with a flat edge), slipped it under the tile, and pried it off. 

I laid all of the tiles in the room without having to cut them. I let this set overnight before cutting and laying the remaining spots. 

Cutting these cement tiles was a dream! I had my wet saw set up outdoors but quickly realized I could cut these without water, and it was actually easier this way. I used a diamond blade on my tile saw for all the cuts.

After making all of the cuts, I went around and laid these. The difference this time around is that since there was such a small area to work in, I had to forgo applying Thinset to the floor and only apply the adhesive on the tile.

Tile Spacing

1/16 tile spacing
1/16 tile spacing

Since I didn’t want anything to take away from this gorgeous pattern, I wanted the smallest grout line possible. I used 1/16 spacers and am very happy with how it came out!

And if you’re thinking to yourself, wow she used a lot of spacers, then you are correct! I felt like it was helping to keep all the areas in perfect positioning.

Sealing Tiles

tile with sealer applied still wet

Specific to working with cement tile (or other porous materials like marble), I had to seal the tiles before applying any grout. This extra step is super easy and well worth it for how absolutely stunning these handmade Moroccan tiles are!

I let the Thinset dry overnight, removed the spacers, cleaned the surface with a damp rag, and began sealing. I applied three coats of sealer using a small roller. 

Prep the Grout

I mixed the grout in a clean bucket using this handy grout mixing tool. I highly recommend investing a little bit of money in one of these. They are a time and arm saver!

mixing grout with a drill attachment
mixer attachment for a drill to mix grout

Grout the Tiles

I hate grouting—just putting that out there! It’s so tedious, and it feels like the grout haze will never go away. I have learned that having different options to clean the tile and clean water is super helpful. The cleaner the water and sponge, the better. 

grouting tile

Since it has been a while since I’ve grouted, I was feeling unsure of my skills, so I started behind the toilet area, just in case things went badly. 

I was really worried about the grout discoloring the tile, so I followed all the grouting directions to a T: I laid a small section, let it set for 10 minutes (I even timed it!), and then started the washing process. 

washing tile grout

The grout came off with no problem; that was my green light to go all the way! 

I worked in smaller sections of about 6-8 tiles. Just as when I laid the tile, I was careful to not back myself into a corner. I worked from the back of the room outward.  

Best Way to Apply Grout

grouting a bathroom floor

Using a grout float, I took a small amount of grout and pressed it into the spaces between the tiles, slightly tipping the grout float at a 45-degree angle to help get the stuff in there. The trick here is going at the grout line from multiple directions to make sure the entire space is filled. 

Since my grout lines were so small, filling the space took the smallest amount. And since I want as little grout as possible on the tile, I’m going back with my float and wiping away excess grout. Holding my float at a 90-degree angle, I wipe away as much excess grout as possible on the tile outside the grout line.

This is important, so I’ll say it again… use a very small amount of grout at a time! Make sure the line is completely filled, and leave as little as possible on the tile. 

Wash Away Excess Grout

sponges to wash tile grout

After ten or so minutes, I began wiping. I didn’t keep track of time after that first set. I worked in one area by putting down the grout, and then, by the time I was done with that, I went back and wiped the section I had done prior. 

The key is to keep wiping until the water runs clear. This is where the various wiping rags, sponges, and several buckets of water (or access to a sink) come in handy.

With the first few passes, I always feel like I’m just smearing mud all over my gorgeous tile. But practice has taught me to keep going, and eventually, the water will clear up. 

grout haze

I’ve also learned that as sick of the washing as I may get, diligence pays off. You may have heard about grout haze, and it’s real thing. A real pain in the butt thing. It’s dirty grout water that is now dried onto your tile and leaves a very annoying film you can’t ignore. 

When washing, I also avoid using too much water or pressure on the grout lines, as this can disrupt the grout. 

grout on tile floors

Another tip is to check for missed or bumpy areas or dirty grout. If I notice any missed spots after washing, I fill them in by applying a small amount of grout with my fingertip. 

This is my first time using white grout, and I noticed some spots looked dirty. Ugh, already?! I realized the fibers from the sponge and rags I used to clean were coming off. I know I’m hyper-focused on things, and my OCD is in overdrive, but I went back and put another layer over these areas.

To prevent this, I highly recommend having a rag in the color of your grout. With the white grout, it would have been best to have a white rag. I never noticed this before, but I have only used black grout, which has its own issues, but sponge specs weren’t one! 

clean grouted tile after washing the haze

If you look closely, the left side of the image shows grout haze, and the right side shows after diligent washing!

Washing Grout Step by Step

Washing grout is not good for the OCD, or maybe it’s great because I was so focused on getting as much grout off as possible that I actually prevented it! I used this grout haze washing technique and when I returned the following day, and to my surprise, my OCD paid off! The grout haze is non-existent. Phew! Hallelujah! Amen! This felt like a win, one that I really needed, especially after the refinishing wood floor saga.

Seal the Tile

sealer for cement tiles

After letting the grout cure, which the box says 16 hours, I applied 3 additional coats of sealer.

Is It Hard to Install Cement Tile?

Quite the opposite! Everything about these handmade wall and floors tile is beginner friendly. They are easy to install especially because cutting this Moroccan tile was a dream!

Project Details + Sources

Tiling a Bathroom Floor Before and After

bathroom floor with cement tiles after installing and grouting

Laying Floor Tile Wrap Up

Taking a step back and now soaking up how this turned out, I am so happy to see my vision come to life! And I’m thankful it was a small bathroom, ha! Now, onto the shower.

By sharing these steps and tips, I hope you feel more confident about tiling your bathroom floor. This project requires patience and meticulous attention to detail for best results, but as you can see, the outcomes are well worth the effort. 

>>Now, go check out how to tile a shower floor. Which, I used penny tile, but regardless of what you’re using, there is a major mistake you can avoid, and I give all the details in this post. Hint – it’s about tiling around the drain!

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